Sunday, November 20, 2016

The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee - Jai Arjun Singh

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed 42 films, a list which include classics like 'Satyakam', 'Guddi', 'Anand', 'Golmaal', 'Chupke Chupke', 'Namak Haram', Abhimaan', 'Bemisal' and a host of other films. Without knowing who made these movies I watched 12 of them and some of them have deep influences on me. They created images and possibilities that made the world bearable and somehow saner and more secure. Jai Arjun Singh's book 'The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee - The Filmmaker Everyone Loves' puts Hrishida's lifetime of movie making into perspective - for a start I was surprised that he made so many high quality films and that I'd seen so many of his films without knowing who made them.
Penguin, Rs. 599, 329 p
It's also a tribute to the kind of films Hrishi da made - I actually own at least 8 DVDs of the films he made. They are memories you want to own, to share, to dip into. They are like treasures you want to hide, maybe trinkets to some, but invaluable to you. So watching 'Anand' or 'Golmaal' or 'Namak Haraam' or 'Rang Birangi' with someone appropriate seems like sharing a favorite memory. For someone to have achieved such quality in his work, he must have had great honesty, commitment and concentration.

What I loved about the chemistry graduate's life (he went on to teach mathematics at a girl's college before joining movies), is the number of films he made in his lifetime. 42 is no easy number and when we see the filmography which starts in 1957 with 'Musafir' and ends with 'Jhoot bole kauva kate' in 1998 we can see he averages over a film a year. And to see the quality of his films especially in the late 60s and 70s is wonderful. The sheer volume of work apart, two other aspects of his came forth. One his concentration on his work (he lived alone in Bombay while his family lived in Calcutta) and which he desired from his artistes also (his getting upset at artistes getting distracted by cell phones). Another, the quality of people he constantly interacted and worked with. And to top it all, he says, that he just had to be above average to get where he got. I find that statement very powerful - do that much more to get out of the rut.The technicalities and critique of the work apart, I picked these three thoughts from the book that gave me an insight into his approach.

Hrishida was a person who many felt easy to work with, talk to. He treated people like people and not stars and Amitabh, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra and others who worked with him gave some of their best performances with him and with 'ease'. He understood music and played sitar for AIR, loved dogs (and people). He brought what they say great economy to his films which I would think shows a clear mind. His sense of humour was used in many ways to convey his acceptance of the system and it seeped into the audience.

Much to learn from Hrishida. For starters, the volume of work and the concentration on requires to rise above average. I remember watching 'Bemisal' an un-Amitabh-like movie in the 80s, and being highly impressed by Amitabh's performance as well as the unusual content of the film. To date I rate it one of his finest performances and I was happily surprised to see that it was Hrishida's creation too. I am so glad to have read this book which put everything in perspective for me and contained a lifetime of work and vignettes of a person whom I admire. Now like the author says, to watch and rewatch some of those films again. For starters 'Anari', 'Biwi aur Makaan', 'Anupama', 'Satyakam', 'Anand', 'Guddi', 'Buddha Mil Gaya', 'Bawarchi', 'Abhimaan', 'Namak Haraam', 'Mili', 'Chupke Chupke', 'Golmaal', 'Khubsurat', 'Naram Garam', 'Bemisal', 'Rang Birangi'.

Thanks Raja, for the book. Wonderful stuff.

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